International Tournaments

Word Cup Predictions: Who is progressing from the group stage?

Should we expect a boring tournament with no surprises or teams who are considered as lesser ones will make impact at the World Cup? Could some sides like Spain for example slip and become the disappointment of the tournament?

Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Russians have some top class players, but they have not really impressed in their pre World Cup tournaments and friendly games. I don’t think that the Russian players have enough confidence and I believe that they will be under pressure at the beginning of the game. They are better side that Saudi Arabians. They have a very experienced manager in the like of Juan Antonio Pizzi, however. Pizzi managed Chilean team who won Copa America in 2016, but failed unfortunately his team fell behind Peru on goal difference in the Word Cup 2018 qualifications.

The Russian team played with a back three formation and some good box-to-box players, but are not an offensively minded team. At the the same time they play in front of their own fans and who would want them to attack.  If Russian manage to score first they will probably win the game. However, the Saudis attacking midfielders Salem al-Dawsari, Yahya al-Shehri and Fahad al-Muwallad are skillful players and his 4-2-3-1 a like defensive minded formation would create troubles to the hosts.

Draw: 1:1

Egypt vs Uruguay

I belive that the Uruguayans should be winning their opening game at the tournament. They have an impressive team and I would not be surprised if they win all there game in their group. Egypt will be without Mohamed Salah and despite that they are a good side, Urugways are good good and too experienced team for them.

Uruguay to win: 3:1

Morocco v Iran

The Moroccans have more high profile players than Iran. Iranians will be without one of the players who was a regular starter in the qualifications, the 21-year-old Saeid Ezatolahi. He will miss the game due to suspension. Morrocans.

Draw: 1:1

Portugal v Spain

Spain are obviously the better team, but Portuguese have enough quality in their squad to win this fixture. Spain are one of the favorites to win the World Cup. Their squad is very balanced and they have competition in every position. However, the announcement that the manager Julen Lopetegui is taking on Real Madrid after the tournament and his subsequent dismissal could be a huge distraction for the team. Why did Lopetegui choose the worst possible timing to announce he is taking the managerial post in Los Blancos? Real Madrid board has obviously chosen the club in front of their country.

The Spanish football federation acted and replaced immediately Lopetegui a by popular figure in the Spanish and word football. the new coach who will lead the team in Russia is Fernando Hierro. Hierro has played 439 times for Real Madrid and scored 102 goals for them, but this will mean nothing at the Word Cup. Based on the mess in the Spanish camp, I’ll tip Portugal to either draw or win this fixture.

Draw: 2:2

France v Australia

The Aussies have had some very good teams during the previous world cups and I have always looked forward to watch their games. I’ll be curious how could they stop France, a team which is one of the favorites to win the world cup. French team look a bit volatile sometime, but they have world class player in every position and the games at the group stage should not be difficult for them.

Didier Descamps has a “selection problem” as he would need a make decisions which of his top player to start the games during the tournament.

France to win: 3:0

Peru v Denmark

The Danes are definitely a classier team. The have a top goalkeeper in the like of Kasper Schmeichel, a top playmaker such as Christian Eriksen and a good winger like Pione Sisto. The Danish side has a good composure and we can expect them to put a significant team effort in the games.

Peru are a good team who plays with a lot of creativity. The player to watch is the attacking midfielder Edison Flores. I think that the Peruvians will be one of the pleasant surprises of this tournament.

Peru to win: 2:1

Argentina v Iceland

Argentinians will need to win against a team with a strong work ethics. Iceland pass the balls very well and are quite organized side. They do not have enough creative players, however. Gylfi Sigurdsson might not be ready to play agains Argentina and I think that the Los Gauchos are too good for the Icelanders.

The only thing we can say about Argentina is that they should not have issues to pass the group stage of the tournament and their focus should be to win the tournament. The Liones Messi led team has also players like Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, the latter personally responsible for some big misses in the history of the Argentinian national team.

Argentinians though are not that good defensively and I think that Iceland exploit that especially with long balls and set pieces.

Argentina to win: 3:1

Croatia v Nigeria

Im sure that every manager would be happy to have Ivan Pericis, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitic in his midfield. It will be the probably the last big tournament for the striker Mario Mandzukic and I’m sure that he will make an impact.

I don’t think that the current Nigeria team is as good enough as the country’s previous teams. The 32-year old John Obi Mikel is one of the Nigeria’s star players and it speaks a lot for the team.

Croatia to win: 2:0

Costa Rica v Serbia

Costa Ricans play in the the CONCACAF where their main rivals were Mexico, United States and Honduras and Panama. They play with five man midfield and might find difficult to attack and win points agains Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.

Serbs have some very good players in the likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic, Nemanja Matic, Alexander Kolarov and  they should be able to start the World Cup with a win. It looks to me that the weakest part of their team is the attack where their best striker looks to be Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Newcastle striker who has played on loan for Fulham in 2018.

Serbia to win: 1:2

Brazil v Switzerland

Brazil have a top goalkeeper in the like of Alisson. Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Marcelo and Danilo are all big names, but together their are far from being one of best defences in the world, something Brazil needs to win the World Cup. Some of Casemiro, Paulinho, Fernandinho, Fred and Philippe Coutinho will need to watch from the bench, despite all of them being top players. Up front some among Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Douglas Costa and Roberto Firmino will partner Neymar.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri are the Switzeralnd’s best players, while the new Arsenal wing-back Stephan Lichtsteiner is the most experienced one. I don’t expect the Swiss to achieve a lot on this tournament, but they might be able to progress through the group stage.

Brazil to win: 3:0

Germany v Mexico

I think that Mexico have a good chance to get out of their group to progress to the last 16. However, I don’t think that they will win any points against Germany. The Germany’s weakest line (if we could say “weak” when we discuss the German football team) is their attack. they have Timo Werner, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez in their team. Werner is only 22-year-old, while Gomez is  32 and the best years of his career are past him. However the Germans have a top players on the flanks and that would help them a lot.

Germany to win: 2:0

Sweden v South Korea

Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Son Heung-min is the Koreans best striker and he gives a lot of pace in the team’s attack. Players to watch are Lee Jae-sung, who is considered as one of Asia’s best midfielders and Hwang Hee-chan, who plays for Red Bull Salzburg and is famous for his dribble and his shooting skills. Ki Sung-yueng who plays for Swansea is another very good player in the Korean team.

Sweden holds no surprise for any one. A very organized team, who plays 4-4-2 and after being led for many years by Zlatan Ibrahimovi on the pitch, they switched their focus to building a strong collective. However, Sweden would struggle to score goals on the tournament as they lack high profile strikers.

South Korea to win: 1:2

Belgium v Panama

Panama debut at the World Cup and their team has already made some history. Anything else would be hard to achieve in a group in which they ned to play against Belgium and England.

Belgium to win: 2:0

Tunisia v England

If England don’t win that one, the World Cup Russia 2018, might turn into nightmare for them. This is one of the first English team who goes to play on a major tournament without being under pressure. There are no expectations that the Three Lions would achieve something and this would help them a lot. There many decent players in the England’s team, but only four of them – Harry Kane, Delle Ali, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford can be game changers. Jesse Lingard could be also very good on the flanks, while Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier could bring stability in the midfield.

My pick for England’s starting eleven are: Jordan Pickford as goalkeeper, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Garry Cahill and Trent-Alexander Arnold in the back four, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Delle Ali and Raheem Sterling in the midfield, and Harry Kane and Danny Welbeck in attack.

Welbeck is someone who can play long-side and sacrifice himself for Harry Kane. Another option for the starting eleven is Marcus Rashford and I’m sure that Gareth Southgate will have a selection dilemma as Welbeck has both a good pace and significant experience while Rashford is an already proven talent.

One of the Tunisia’s most important player Wahbi Khazri failed to impress at Sunderland, who got relegated into League One.

England to win: 2:0

Colombia v Japan

Colombian have some top players in the likes of the midfielders James Rodrigues and Juan Cuadrado and strikers, Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao and Luis Muriel. Colombians are expected to play with a lot of possession and to attack.

Japan’s top players are Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki and Maya Yoshida. The Japanese are solid team who are able to put a very organized performances. The 32-year-old Keisuke Honda, how is a star player in the Japans football would also play and I would not be surprise if Japan get out of the group.

Draw: 1:1

Poland v Senegal

We can expect Senegalese to be an offensively minded team as they have a good choice of quality strikers in the likes of Sadio Mane, Mame Biram Diouf, Diafra Sakho, Moussa Konate and Keita Balde. West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye are good midfielders while the Napoli Kalidou Koulibaly will be one of the most wanted defenders in European transfer market this summer.

Defenders Kamil Glik and Lukasz Piszczek, midfielders Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and strikers Arkadiusz Milik and Robert Lewandowski should be more than enough for anyone to say that Poland have a good team at the moment. The defence is probablish it weakest line it is interesting to see whether the Polish defenders could stop the pacey Senegalese attacking players.

Draw: 2:2

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